There are just too many similarities between England’s twin ignominious (local by-laws oblige us to use that word) exits from the 2006 World Cup of football and now the 2007 one of cricket for it to be a matter of coincidence.
1) In both cases England scraped unconvincing wins against amateurish minnows in the early rounds, with the management promising us that starting slowly is good …. the important thing is to win… if you can win while playing badly…raise their game against better opposition…etc.
2) In both cases England then promptly and predictably lost when coming up against decent teams.
3) In both cases the captain (Beckham, Vaughan) was there purely for his personality and leadership qualities, being little more than a passenger in a playing capacity. These qualities proved insufficient.
4) In both cases one solitary world-class player (Gerrard, Pietersen) showed glimpses of brilliance that might keep England in with a shout, only to be swamped by the general mediocrity surrounding him.
5) In both cases I swore often and with vigour at the television.
There’s a conspiracy here somewhere, I just can’t quite put my finger on it.